As everyone in Kensington knows, Antique Row is one of the community’s points of pride. Howard Avenue and its side streets are lined with shops specializing in antique furniture, rugs, vintage toys, used books and more. This large presence in the community sparked our feature, Antique of the Week, where we will showcase a different item or curiosity each week to bring attention to pieces from the past.
This week, we’re featuring a Hobby Horse Inn sign. Marsha Levin, one of the proprietors at Antique Market 3, believes it is originally from England, where hobby horse festivals were common.
In “Hobby Horses and Associated Rites,” Russell Williams discusses two hobby horse festivals that still occur in England. They were also known as a spring fertility festival. May queens and kings were chosen to ride on the hobby horse, created and carried by sailors.
The festival would traditionally begin on May 1, and the May queen and king would start at a secret hiding place. As they would parade across town, they would solicit contributions. Anybody who would refuse to donate would be lashed with a rope that served as the tail.
On May Day, the hobby horse would battle the authentic horse. On May 3, the final day of the festival, the horse party would end up at a tavern for drinking. Two taverns in England still have the festival, Padstow and Minehead in Cornwall.
Levin said the sign would serve as a great addition to a recreational room. She is currently selling it for $750 at Antique Market 3 on 3760 Howard Avenue. Her phone number is 301-942-4440.